Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Charity vs sustainable development issues in Haiti

Hello readers of the Project Jatropha blog,
My name is Michelle Lacourciere and I am the director of the Sirona Cares Foundation. The SCF uses Jatropha as a tool to empower Haitian farmers giving them the ability to create, use and market Jatropha oil in Haiti. SCF and Project Jatropha’s work share many commonalities, and we are proud of our partnership with them and honored to post on this blog.

Recently a reader here posed questions about Haiti, specifically about the role of NPOs there and the charity vs. sustainable development issue. I’m happy to respond with regard to the SCF role in Haiti. Our primary reason for being in Haiti, and eventually in other countries, is to bring true sustainable development to the poorest people there, the peasant farmers. We are creating an industry with many jobs, and all of the profits from this work will be eventually be controlled by a Haitian for-profit entity, Sirona Haiti and reinvested into the participating communities. Our goal is to create possibility where none exists now, to create a machine that will continue to enhance life in rural Haiti long after we have gone.

It is impossible to work in Haiti and see the condition that our communities suffer in and do nothing to help. Without losing our focus on sustainable development we also work to support those who care for and educate children. This critical advocacy role gives our orphanage and school directors a voice where they had none before. We have successfully linked them to resources supplied by other NPOs and individuals/groups here that wish to help in this area. We do this because we believe that children are the future, and in Haiti the median age is only 20. If we can help support these children and harness the energy of the change-makers who are in their late twenties we will be able to rapidly see change in Haiti. Response to our work has been tremendous, hundreds of farmers have enrolled, and we are well received in their communities because we work both to empower them, and to support their children. We are proud of the model, and excited to have made the progress that we did this year in light of the earthquake and recent cholera epidemic.

Sirona’s name was taken from the Celtic goddess of healing. We see the crippling effects of long-term charity in Haiti on every trip, and we work very hard to reverse them through empowerment and education. Our work uses on the “teach a man to fish” vs. “give a man a fish” philosophy. A SCF blog entry addressing this very issue is found at http://tinyurl.com/2bxe4ec. I hope that this has answered your questions, and again, I respectfully thank the Project Jatropha team for asking me to post here on their blog.

Michelle Lacourciere
The Sirona Cares Foundation


  1. Dear Michelle,
    Thanks a ton for this informative blog post. I completely understand where you are coming from. You are truly a very inspirational leader. I have been following your work since I started following Project Jatropha. You are doing very noble deed I must say. I love your motto"Give a Man a Fish" Very true in this unique case. Good luck. The earth is a better place because of people like you and this team of youth. Keep on saving the world!

  2. Project Jatropha: Great stuff, inspiring and compassionate way you are applying this resource.

    I work as a referral agent on behalf of a Calgary company, here in Canada, developing Food & Fuel-based plantations in Kenya. Look forward to following Project Jatropha!